Rod Gator Pens Blues-folk Love Letter to His Home State with ‘For Louisiana’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

The intro of Rod Gator’s latest LP, For Louisiana, begins with recorded pleas of those suffering from Hurricane Katrina, running out of food and medicine and wondering out loud how they will survive, voiced over a rising piano. That chilling intro is a brilliant prelude to what follows, a love letter to his native state filled with songs of compassion, emotion and resilience filtered through an impressive blues/folk/Country gumbo.

While not every song here is Bayou centric – on “Chickenhawk” he sings about war from the POV of a soldier and “Out Here in Echo Park” touches on his time in LA – it’s those songs about his home state like “Idle Hands,” with blazing guitar and an ominously dark bass line, and the title track about being a traveling musician constantly on the move reflecting on home, that makes this record so compelling. The raw emotion in a song like “August 29” (“Waters rise how long can I stand/Last Rites painted on a tin roof/The wicked man’s got death on his hand”) is visceral.

For Louisiana is a product of where I grew up and where I’ve been since I left town,” Gator says, whose given last name is Melancon. “It’s also a product of a group of players from different backgrounds, coming together to create. Any time you have a unique group of musicians from all kinds of cultures, the sound is going to be special. That’s emblematic of Louisiana, too. It’s emblematic of the Cajun people.”

Raised Vermilion Parrish, Louisiana, Gator left to become an actor in Los Angeles, before settling in Austin and has since churned out a handful of records, most notably 2019’s stellar Pinkville.

On For Louisiana, Gator turned to his longtime collaborator Will Walden, along with Adrian Quesada of Black Pumas to co-produce. Sixteen years after Hurricane Katrina devastated Louisiana, killing close to 2,000 people, destroying generations of communities, and exposing ineptitude in government planning and response, the wounds are still unhealed for many. For Louisiana is a powerful soundtrack of Gator trying to exorcise some of those demons.

Photo credit: David McClister

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